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Gartner calls regents' closed-door meeting 'productive'

Erin Jordan

Des Moines Register

December 4, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Des Moines Register, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Des Moines Register.]

The Iowa Board of Regents met for 90 minutes in closed session this morning to discuss finalists for the University of Iowa presidency, but emerged with no decisions.

“It was a productive session, but we have nothing else, no announcement, to go beyond that at this time,” said Regents President Michael Gartner after the private conference call.

The conference call was the first time the 9-member board has met since Nov. 17 when they voted 6-2 to reject four finalists for U of I president.

At that time, Gartner said none of the finalists had enough experience with hospitals and medical schools.

The decision to disband the search baffled and frustrated the U of I community and faculty, staff and students were prepared to take no-confidence votes in the regents.

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack stepped in last week and advised parties involved to reconsider the finalists -- a move supported by faculty and staff groups.

Faculty Senate President Shelly Kurtz said this morning he was optimistic about the regents’ meeting.

“The fact they talked about it for an hour and a half is a positive sign,” Kurtz said. “One interpretation is that they have already decided to seek one candidate.”

The four finalists include U of I Provost Michael Hogan, two provosts of other large universities and a president of a mid-sized institution.

The regents started the conference call around 7:40 a.m. today and voted 8-1 to move into closed session.

Regent Bob Downer, of Iowa City, voted against the closed meeting and said the board should vote in public on whether they were going to reconsider the Nov. 17 motion to reject the four finalists.

“If we don’t take that action, it seems that this matter is essentially over and that would be it,” Downer said.

Gartner responded that the purpose of the closed-session was to discuss candidates, which is viewed as a confidential personnel matter.

“My idea was we were going into the session to discuss candidates,” he said.

The regents do not have another meeting scheduled until their regular meeting Dec. 11 in Iowa City, but they can post new meeting notices on their web site.